Chinese authorities arrested two men in possession of a children’s book that officials called “seditious.”
Police and customs officials arrested the men, aged 38 and 50, on March 13 after searching their homes and finding several copies of the book, which describes sheep holding back village wolves. The wolves want to take over a village and eat the sheep, pushing the sheep to fight them.
Authorities have interpreted the book as a reference to Hong Kong and Beijing. According to QZ, the officers relied on a colonial-era law to justify sending the men to prison.
Both men were released on bail but are due to report to police next month, the BBC reported. The police seized several copies of the books during their search.
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The book, one of three in a series called Yangcun, caused an uproar last year when a government-appointed judge ruled it constituted “seditious intent” and jailed five speech therapists for 19 months for publishing- the
The court emphasized that the punishment was for “damage or risk of damage to children’s minds” and the potential to sow seeds of “instability”, according to The Independent.
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“What the defendants have done to children aged four and over was in fact an exercise in brainwashing with the aim of guiding very young children into accepting their views and values,” the judge said.
This week’s arrests would be the first for simply owning the book, which critics say represents a serious erosion of freedoms in the country.
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Hong Kong remains a special administrative region of China under a “one country, two systems” arrangement with Beijing, but the rights granted to the island’s citizens have been slowly eroded since 2020 with the implementation of a national security law that aimed to suppress. on widespread protests.
The use of an even more outdated law and the vague interpretation of “sedition” showed how far Chinese officials will go in their efforts to restrict dissent, according to Professor Johannes Chan, a former professor of public law at the University from Hong Kong. .
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“If a cartoon comes in [a newspaper] It is considered seditious, any reader who kept a copy of the newspaper could be guilty of the crime of possession,” Chan, who is a visiting professor at University College London, told The Guardian. “This could not be compatible with the guarantee of the freedom of expression of the Fundamental Law or the declaration of rights”.